I was always the tallest person in any class photo, and my hair could be straight or curly (a trait people envied). I grew up extremely confident. I always thought I had it all and I was never missing anything. I grew up with a great group of friends and was always in the perfect romantic relationship. I wasn’t Sarah M or Jenny B or Allison K, I was Joey- and everyone knew me.
When I was 13 I was diagnosed with ADD. It didn’t change my life, affect my friendships or make me sad. It was mainstream, at least I thought so and so life went on.
In 2009 in my third year of university at The University of Western Ontario, I left. It was November and the girl who was once the life of the party just wasn’t there anymore; I felt myself disappear. I had it all: I lived with my best friends, had an amazing boyfriend, had a car, was doing well in school, but none of that mattered. I just wasn’t me.
It was one night at a friend’s birthday dinner in London, Ontario that I lost it. I just broke. Everything I was feeling inside translated into me just losing it. My actions and words became insensitive and rude. I couldn’t keep it in. Everyone at the table was probably thinking, “what’s up with Joey, she’s being a super bitch.” Their criticism made me physically lose it. I was being harsh on everyone and everything anyone said, but their harsh words back at me just made me crumble even more. I cried in front of 11 girls, who until then thought I was one of the toughest girls out there (I never showed much emotion). My exterior shell had broken and the true, vulnerable me was out.
I left school in November that year, which was one of the hardest decisions, to this day, of my life. I chose to walk away from my friends, my life and my future in school because I needed to sort out me (which I was petrified to do). Thanks to my mom who helped me and understood what was going on, I dealt with leaving my so-called “life” the right way. I kept up my responsibilities, paid my rent and left my furnishings in London for my friends to finish their year.
I was diagnosed as clinically depressed in December of 2009. It was only after this that I was then treated for anxiety as well. I was back at home in Toronto, living with my parents and taking medication to bring myself back to who I appeared to be before. None of my friends understood how seriously my life had transformed due to a simple chemical imbalance in my head. I don’t blame them.
This transition in my life caused me to lose most, if not all, of my friends. They gave up on me. Nobody could relate to me anymore, I had no similarities with anyone. I was ‘the girl who left Western’. To this day it seems it may be how I am remembered. Losing my friends meant I lost my identity too. I didn’t know who I was anymore so I spent the next 3 years finding what made ME happy, without a boyfriend, without Western and without friends.
Depression tried to beat me in 2009 but knowing something was wrong and asking for help saved my life. Today, I run my own Interior Design firm in Toronto. I live on my own with my dog Freddie. Overall I may appear to be a very happy person, and I am much happier than I was, but I continue to struggle with depression & anxiety everyday, even being on medication. There are definitely days I want to give up the life I have just to be numb, but I am lucky enough to have a mom who catches me with a hug and parents that will always be there.
I wasn’t scared to ask for help from my family but facing my friends was something I was not ready for. Mental illness was unknown in my group of friends - something I really hope will change with new generations. I don’t know if to this day my friends really know what happens in my head on a day-to-day basis or how much I still struggle.
I just know I couldn’t do it at Western and to this day, I cannot do it alone. The bottom line for me is that mental illness needs to be discussed and exposed so people understand that its not the end of the world, there are answers and people to help you-you are not alone.
Depression and anxiety could have beat me, but instead I continue and will continue to fight it. Writing this and thinking about what I went through only makes me feel so grateful for The Dialogue Projects and having this outlet to tell my story.